It’s a nice sunny Sunday morning, and like most Sunday mornings (for those of us who tend not to have much of a lie in) it’s a great time for doing the things you don’t get to do during the week because of work.
I decided that before I continue working on my Astronomy dissertation this morning for my Certificate in Astronomy course I would join some User Experience and Tech based meet ups on Meetup.com. This is so I can not only add to my continuous learning but also become involved in the social aspect.
I already have a Meetup account for various other meet ups I’m a member of, and generally joining a meet up is an easy process, you find the one you want and you click to join. I searched for User Experience in London and I came across several I was interested in and joined. Most were, as described a ‘one button click’ process.
However, there were two in particular that present you with a bunch of profile questions to answer before you can join. This is a massive pet peeve of mine, not only that it is a poor User Experience but it also is a massive barrier to entry. I’m a firm believer that you should let people in, have a look around and then present questions in an unobtrusive manner (i.e don’t pop out at you in a modal dialog) so they can have a think and answer in their own time.
In my own experience, I felt as if the questions were sprung on me, they didn’t make a lot of sense and I had no idea what purpose they would serve. Take a look at the Lean Startup Circle questions
First of, I have no idea which questions are mandatory and which are optional. By reading the questions and not having a ‘startup’ I can logically deduce that questions 1 and 5 would be mandatory, since I answer ‘no’ to question 1 I will not need to fill the rest of the form. However, this is not the case and when I try and hit next I get
Ok, so now I think that maybe 1, 3 and 4 are mandatory. However, this is not true either, in fact they are all mandatory even though I cannot answer 2 and 3 as I do not have a startup. I also can’t answer 4 as I do not have a philosophy as of yet.
So the text I entered in these fields just to sign up was “Why are you asking me this when I answered no to being involved in a startup?” and “I don’t have a philosophy as of yet”.
This was an extremely frustrating process, where I was forced to give these answers on the spot when all I wanted to do was join the group and attend a meet up.
One can almost forgive a ‘Lean Start Up group’ as they aren’t a user experience focussed group (however I am a firm believer that everyone should have good UX at the forefront of whatever product they are building or service they are offering), but when UX Designers HQ does the same thing, it does make you question the credibility of the group and whether you want to be a member.
In Nielsen Norman’s article ‘Login walls stop users in their tracks’ they outline that the login walls ‘require a significant interaction cost.’ I believe mandatory questions as such, on Meetup.com are equivalent to login walls.
So to conclude a member should never be forced to answer mandatory questions and for it to be ‘sprung on them’, especially for a social site such as Meetup.com in order to join the group. If you do choose to go down this route, at least have the common courtesy to explain to your users why you are asking these questions as otherwise it can lead to frustration and alienation especially with no indication of what is mandatory and what is not, when the content of the questions appears to have some that seem optional.